Franklin My Dear, ... (pt II)

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November 2, 2010

It is probably clear from my last post that I don't have a tonne of respect for the theology of Franklin Graham.  While I probably agree with him on most points of Christianity, I worry that his own anger and vengefulness impact the "gospel" that he spreads, especially in non-American countries.  I know that Samaritan's Purse channels a lot of great Christian generosity, but with Franklin Graham as the figurehead, I'm not convinced those donations will be lovingly distributed.

So it is likely that I am filled with skepticism every time I see his face, but this most recent time still seems justified.

I do quite a bit of reading on biblegateway.com.  It allows me to compare translations quickly and to copy and paste scripture references into a sermon without having to manually type out long passages from the paper copy on my bookshelf.  To pay for their web hosting fees, etc. they have advertisements along the side of the page.  These ads list church programming resources, holy land tours, Bibles and other Christian books for sale, and other charitable giving opportunities.  Recently, they've started posting ads with Franklin Graham's face on them.

These ads direct visitors to ibelieve.com.  This site, and it's sponsoring company, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, call for a few things that I very much endorse: 1. Making a public declaration of faith.  2. A Christian response to secularization in our society.  That being said, I think their responses in both of these categories to be completely inadequate.

On the page you can view a short video clip of Franklin Graham reiterating the point, and at the top of the page you'll read this:

In a culture where people are loudly proclaiming they are "good without God", it's time to stand up and say "I'm a Christian"

While both parts of this sentence are true by my observation, I think Christians need to respond with more than a spoken declaration.  If society was proudly saying "I'm without God" and we would respond with "I'm with God" that would be fair.  However, since society is demonstrating good deeds with their words, if we only respond with words, we are embarrassing ourselves.

"I'm good without God."

"Oh yeah, well I'm with God."

"Yeah, but are you good?"

"It doesn't matter, I'm with God."

It's worth mentioning, but let's save the "saved by grace not by works"/"faith without works is dead" argument for the seminary classrooms.  People in our society are eager to write off an actionless religion as irrelevant.  That's the whole point of people saying they are good without God.  People will happily and often correctly point out that they are better people as atheists/agnostics/whatever than most Christians.  If our only response to them is to label ourselves as Chrstians, we are simply counting ourselves among the people who don't measure up to them ethically.

It's also worth mentioning that Jesus applauds people who are good without God.  In Mark 9: 38-41 Jesus rebukes his disciples for stopping someone from casting out demons because he wasn't one of them.  "Whoever isn't against us is for us."

Those who are persuaded to make such a statement are invited to sign a declaration of faith.  The form asks for your name and email address (unless you are an American, in which case they want your whole mailing address).  You also need to check a box to agree that you are over 18.  Are they declaring this to be the age of accountability?  It hardly seems likely that the earthly legal ramifications of your age would matter in this context.

Also, before clicking "Submit", you are greeted by one more little notice:

By signing this declaration of faith, you may also receive email updates and special offers from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Can I still declare my faith without having to agree to those terms?

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Comments

Thanks for your comment Lambie. I applaud the generosity of those who donate to Samaritan's Purse and the work that is being accomplished through this organization. My point with regards to them however is that I would rather donate to an organization that would be just as willing to send shelter and support to places like Iran, Afghanistan and North Korea. If Samaritan's Purse is doing this, it goes directly against the words Franklin Graham publicly spoke.

It would be great too if Graham would highlight the charitable work being done through organizations like his as a possible response to those who celebrate that they are good without God, but he only invites people to make a declaration, and one which invites spam.

Thanks Charlotte for the correction. Mennonite Central Committee and Canadian Foodgrains bank, among others, also do relief work in the DPRK, although the regime is accused of often limiting or allegedly redirecting the aid that is sent there. Plus, there are relief agencies and missions organizations around the world preparing to send their workers there the moment the borders to North Korea are open.
I applaud the work Franklin's charities and others are doing there, but I don't think I'm alone in wondering if those actions are consistent with a man who thinks nuking America's enemies is an appropriate Christian response.

Thanks for acknowledging some of the same discomfort.
The point of my article wasn't to critique or ignore the charitable work he is doing, but to point out that "I'm a Christian" is often an inadequate response to people who say "I'm good without God".
If God is motivating him to do good works around the world (which I believe he is), then why this that absent from his response to charitable secular people and their critique of the church?
My sense is that he is afraid to hold up good works too high in his public statements because otherwise he will get criticized as holding to a works based salvation, so he leaves it out entirely. You suggest that I only see him one-dimensionally, but I'd like to suggest that he is presenting himself only one-dimensionally. In a conversation about people doing good works without God, it is theologically irresponsible to not mention that God also calls us to do good works as part of following him.

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